Last night, I had to take Elliot downtown for his Arabic lessons.
It turned out to be quite a complicated exercise. He’s taking lessons with a Lebanese man who lives in the Pearl, which is the new trendy part of downtown Portland, the part that until recently was abandoned warehouses, littered streets, and shapeless bundles of homeless people sleeping in doorways. Now all is new and gleaming and speaks of money, from the art galleries that have sprung up and reseeded themselves like dandelions, to the ubiquitous coffee and gelato shops, to a charming little farmer’s market. It’s a Stuff White People Like paradise!  Of course, since it became so popular, you now have to pay to park in every single tiny spot for blocks and blocks around. (You even have to pay near Powells now. Outrage!) So his tutor comes outside and I drop Elliot off, then pick him up at the assigned time later.
This is the first time we’ve done a weekday evening session. Donn had a previous commitment, so I had a precious hour all to myself downtown. I wasted the first 10 minutes deciding what to do. Powells is near, but I didn’t want to pay for parking. I had a book with me (Memed, My Hawk…excellent. I will review it for you when I finish it) and my journal, so I decided to drive a few blocks to NW Portland, also very trendy and full of Stuff White People Like but with free parking, find a nice locally-owned coffee shop, and read and journal and people watch and window shop.
But I have become a parking wimp in Africa. While thanks to driving the savage streets of Nouakchott I now can pass with wild abandon and even drive on a sidewalk if necessary, I have gotten out of practice of parallel parking. So when I drove by the Starbucks with the parking lot, I decided to be boring and just go there. They have outdoor seating and it was a lovely evening, warm and windy and green and gold.
I had no sooner gotten my drink and settled myself at a sidewalk table when out came a barista wannabe to tell me that they were closing and she had to take the tables in. Closing at 8? Apparently so. I was cross, and it didn’t help that it wasn’t her fault. Surely it must be.
So I decided to go to a bookstore, and browse. They were closed too.
By now I only had about 20 minutes left. I sat on a park bench and read, and it was good, but not at all how I’d envisioned it.
Truly the world is not as it should be.

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